Stress Culture: A Georgetown Tradition

Two weeks ago, I had an existential crisis. It started at about 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon and lasted about a week. I am a naturally existential person, so crises come easily to me, but this crisis had a very real and tangible cause. It was caused by words and phrases like these: Georgetown University Student Association, Blue and Gray Tour Guide Society, a capella, Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union, Georgetown University Student Investment Fund, sports, Students of Georgetown, Inc. Committees and positions and meetings. Community service. It seems that every student here is involved in umpteen different clubs and activities, has a constantly full schedule and is getting his hands dirty in something productive and impressive. The cause of the crisis, however, was not that everyone does something, but how much it feels like people here do.

On one hand, I realized that I wanted to expand and spread my wings and try new things so I can discover my interests and find out what I want to do in life, but on the other hand, I felt majorly overwhelmed and majorly behind. Being over-involved felt like what I ought to be doing. Suddenly I couldn’t get the thought out of my head: I’m in college, I have to be one of those college students who does stuff. College students participate in tons of clubs. That’s the culture here. That’s the culture all other freshmen already got started on last semester. The constant activity here on the Hilltop, the activity that is such an impressive hallmark of Georgetown, started to exert an enormous pressure.

But at the same time I began to ask a bigger question: Why? Why do I have to do so much? Where does doing so much bring me? I started to question the value of activity.

College is a difficult place to find who you are and clubs are supposed to help with that, but maybe they just impede us from being able to have the freedom to figure out what we want. Students at Georgetown seem to live under the notion — a sort of golden rule — that free time is a bad thing. I know that when I have free time, I start to feel like I am doing something wrong.

This carries over into classes and the frequently talked-about stress culture. Students are valiantly trying to make the most of their education and their time, but maybe some of us are going overboard. Where is the line between being active for the sake of learning and just liking the feeling of being busy? There is the aura that rests over Lau, one that provokes this reaction to someone saying that they are headed to Lau: “Oh, I’m so sorry.” Going to Healey Family Student Center to do work or going to Regents Hall does not have the same aura of “I’m doing so much, I’m working so hard.” There is this instant guilt that sinks in when someone is going to Lau when you are not, a shame that you are not working as hard as you ought to be.

Our parents are paying exorbitant amounts for us to be able to study here — a topic that is its own can of worms and deserves a lot of attention and discussion — but there is a way to honor that without burying ourselves in activities and proving that we do everything and do it perfectly — giving ourselves the space to be and exist and not fill our calendars to the brim.

As a freshman I don’t want to think ahead just yet. Sure, this is real life, I am an adult, I have to take life seriously and think about getting a job out of college, but what is the opportunity cost of that? I’m not talking about the time missed being social or bingeing Netflix. What does it do to our minds and selves to be constantly overexerting ourselves? Clubs and activities are ways we can find our niche here; they are ways to establish an identity in college. But are our identities becoming too much about what we do and not about who we are? I realized that my relatively empty clubs calendar had started to impose a feeling of an empty self.

The culture of college life, and especially the culture of busy Georgetown life, is easy to get caught up in, but it’s not necessary. You can try to do it all if you want to, but it is completely okay to do things your own way.

Joosje Lupa is a freshman in the College.

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One Comment

  1. Hashwinder Singh says:

    Great quick read! Being an incoming freshman at GU, this really helps ease some stress that I’ve already been having about how involved I need to be! Thanks!

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